Posted by: MummyTravels | Mar 28, 2012

Pregnancy and prehistoric lizards

As I looked over at the blue iguanas, gazing back unblinkingly with their red eyes, I felt a slight sinking feeling. Nothing to do with the endangered reptiles themselves but the fact I was definitely starting to feel slightly dizzy and light-headed.

Just over three months pregnant, my dating scan all done, morning sickness over and energy levels back to something approaching normal, I’d jumped at the chance to head to the Caribbean on a trip to the Cayman Islands. After all, it’s a British overseas territory, best known for its tax haven status, rather than an off-the-beaten track isolated wilderness.

And up until this point, everything had been going swimmingly. The 10-hour direct BA flight (with a touch-down in the Bahamas) had given me the chance to catch up on a few movies, I’d ended up with the master bedroom in the huge apartment I was sharing at the Caribbean Club on Seven Mile Beach, and I was looking forward to some sunshine.

But after several hours walking around the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, which is home to nearly two thirds of Cayman’s native plants and a special breeding programme which has saved the Grand Cayman Blue Iguana from functional extinction, I was feeling distinctly wobbly and worrying that I’d been too optimistic.

Thankfully, a short rest in the shade, plenty of very cold water and the excitement of seeing a fully-grown blue iguana wandering across my path, and I was back to normal – because the three islands, Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, have far too much to discover for me to miss out.

While the waterfront capital George Town is home to one building acting as the registered offshore address for nearly 19,000 businesses, the islands themselves are a natural paradise, with more species of flora and fauna than the Galapagos Islands, including two of the world’s rarest orchids and the earth’s smallest butterfly, the Pygmy Blue. Plus those eye-catching iguanas.

I did skip the three-hour hike along the mastic trail, which winds through a two million-year-old forest in Grand Cayman’s interior, and took a less strenuous nature tour with expat naturalist Ann Stafford to small nature reserves, down backstreets and even to a tennis court to spot some of the local plants, with their fantastic names like Bloody Head Rawbones.

Towards the east of Grand Cayman, beyond the botanic gardens, the coast is littered with wrecks, just one remnant of their history, which saw everyone from Christopher Columbus to Sir Francis Drake turn up, note the island’s wildlife, and sail right off again.

At the 18th century Pedro Castle, the oldest structure on the island, there’s a great introduction to everything from the early settlers, including former members of Oliver Cromwell’s army, to the abolition of slavery and the start of democracy. Or the Mission House, in the former capital of Bodden Town, tells the story of everyday life with artefacts left behind by the missionaries who endured years of mosquitoes, hurricanes and isolation to build their community.

All just reinforcing for me that I don’t want to miss out, just because I’m having a baby.

Declaration: I travelled with the Cayman Islands Tourist Board

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